Play Group is a two year residency in which members become a part of the Ars Nova Resident Artist community. In addition to biweekly meetings where members share new work and receive feedback from their Play Group peers, members also receive dramaturgical support and artistic match-making advice from the Ars Nova artistic staff; invitations to Ars Nova shows, Resident Artists mixers, and to see the work of Play Group alums around the city; two Play Group writing retreats; and the opportunity to further develop and showcase one of their plays in a weeklong workshop that can culminate in a public reading. Click here for a list of Play Group alumni.
Applications for Play Group are now closed.
Click the headshots for Artist Bio below:
MELIS AKER is a writer, actor and musician from Turkey. She is currently a 2050 Playwriting fellow at NYTW and a 2019-2021 member of Ars Nova’s Play Group. She was recently commissioned by Atlantic Theater Company for their Middle Eastern Mixfest to develop her one-act Scraps and Things, and she is part of the Middle East America writers room hosted by Mona Mansour, Heather Raffo and Kareem Fahmy at the Lark Play Development Center. Melis’ plays include: Field, Awakening (2018 Sundance Theatre Lab semifinalist, 2018 Berkeley Rep Ground Floor finalist, Lark’s 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellowship finalist), which performed at Signature Theatre’s New Plays Fest, Golden Thread’s New Threads reading series and Corkscrew Festival at Paradise Factory; Manar (2017 Columbia@Roundabout finalist, 2016 Theatre503 Playwriting Award semi-finalist) which was at The New Group’s New Works series, LaMaMa, Golden Thread’s 2017 ReOrient Festival, LPAC’s 2017 Rough Draft Festival and was featured by Silk Road Rising on NPX; 330 Pegasus: A Love Letter [Part I] (Lark’s 2018 Jerome New York Fellowship finalist) received a Noor Highlight series reading at NYTW; Azul, Otra Vez [Blue, Revisited] was workshopped at NYTW and the BRICLab Residency; When My Mama was a Hittite (2018 Columbia@Roundabout finalist) is currently in development at NYTW. Her acting credits include: The Blacklist: Redemption (NBC), Love in Afghanistan (Arena Stage / Roundabout), Daybreak (Pan Asian Rep), Opium (New Dramatists), Tear a Root from the Earth (Kennedy Center / New Ohio), We Live in Cairo (New World Stages). Melis recently gave a TEDx Talk in Ankara, and works as Ayad Akhtar’s assistant. MFA Playwriting (Columbia), Acting (RADA), BA Drama and Philosophy (Tufts). melisaker.com
PRESTON MAX ALLEN is a trans masculine writer based in New York City. His work has been featured at the New Amsterdam Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York Musical Festival, Signature Theatre, York Theatre, Musical Theatre Factory, Feinstein’s/54 Below and Joe’s Pub. Preston conceived and wrote book, music and lyrics for We Are The Tigers (Hudson Backstage Theatre, L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation winner for Best Lyrics/Composition), Agent 355 (co-book/dramaturgy by Jessica Kahkoska, Marion International Fellowship Winner), NEVER BETTER (NYMF Developmental Reading Series) and Carrie 2: The Rage, An Unauthorized Musical Parody (Jeff Nominee, Best Musical/Underscore Theatre). His original music can also be heard in Bradical and the Pink Sock and The Hunted: Encore. Preston is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, the Second City Chicago Comedy Studies Program and the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. @prestonmaxallen
Preston Max Allen
SERENA BERMAN is a playwright, actress and producer living in NYC. Her work has been produced at The Davenport Theatre (Wisdom, and Other Short Plays) and developed with Artilliers Theatre Company (sea/sick – devised), The Renegade Theatre Festival and Less Than Rent Theater (Études). Serena’s short plays have been performed at The Samuel French OOB Festival (Sex Friends – finalist), Williamstown Theater Festival, Absolu Théâtre (French translation) and more. Serena is also currently Director of Performance at LES gallery Chinatown Soup, where she produces theater and organizes political activism events. She has been doing improv since she was 14 years old (UCB, Second City LA, NYU). As an actor, favorite credits include Diaspora (NY Premiere), Set it Up (Netflix), Murder at the Gates (Steven Sater) and Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (Voice of Lucy – ABC). BFA in Drama, NYU Tisch (CAP21). serenaberman.com
JOHN J. CASWELL JR. is a queer, Mexican-American playwright and director originally from Phoenix. He is a 2018 MacDowell Fellow, a 2018 SPACE on Ryder Farm Creative Resident and the 2017 Page 73 Playwriting Fellow. He is the Artistic Director of Progressive Theatre Workshop, a company that has made plays for the past ten years. He has developed and shown work across Arizona and in New York City at Page 73, HERE, Dixon Place, The Public Theater, Theater for the New City, and more. He has been a finalist for the Princess Grace Award, Sundance Theatre Lab, New York Theater Workshop 2050 Fellowship, Drama League Impact Residency and the Woodward Newman Drama Award. His work is cited frequently as an example of queer-themed theater, most recently referenced in articles appearing in Theatre Topics, The International Journal of the Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice and the European Journal of Comparative American Studies. Included as a consummate demonstration of auto-ethnographic theater, his play SHOTS: A Love Story was published as part of Johnny Saldaña’s book Ethnotheatre: Research From Page to Stage published by Left Coast Press. He is pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at Hunter College.
John J. Caswell, Jr.
DUSTIN CHINN is a Seattle native whose plays include Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious, I Am Nakamura, Snowflakes or Rare White People, the EST/Sloan commission Herschel: Portrait of a Killer and Let’s Ninja Science Ranger Team Get!. His work has been developed with the Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep Summer Residency Lab, A.C.T.’s New Strands Festival, the University of Washington via a Mellon Creative Fellowship, UMASS Amherst, Ensemble Studio Theatre, SPACE on Ryder Farm and Vampire Cowboys. He’s also written for the 52ndStreet Project. He is a proud member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab. dustinchinn.com.
Currently based in NYC, GUADALÍS DEL CARMEN was born and raised in Chicago. Her first play, Blowout, was produced by Aguijón Theater in 2013. In 2014, she was one of eight early career playwrights to be chosen to form El Semillero, a playwright writing group curated by ALTA (Alliance of Latino Theater Artists) in residency at Victory Gardens Theater. My Father’s Keeper was developed through El Semillero, had a public staged reading in June 2015 and was a semi-finalist in Quick Silver Theater Company’s 2018 Playwrights of Color Summit. My Father’s Keeper went on to be selected in Latinx Theatre Commons Carnaval 2018, which took place in Chicago. It was also selected as Steppenwolf Theater’s The Mix, a new play resource highlighting plays that feature casts of diverse social identities. Her play Bees and Honey was part of The Sol Project’s SolFest 2018 in NYC and part of San Diego Rep’s Latinx New Play Festival, which was produced by Amigos del Rep in the summer 2018. Guadalís’ play Tolstoy’s Daughters was part of UrbanTheater Company’s 2015 R.A.W. (Real Aggressive Writing) Series. Tolstoy’s Daughters went on to be selected as a finalist in Quick Silver Theater’s Playwrights of Color Summit, which culminated in a public staged reading in Geneva, NY in June 2016. In 2017, Tolstoy’s Daughters was selected as one of 50 Playwrights Projects Best Unproduced Latino/a Plays, received an Honorable Mention in the Kilroys’ List and is the 2018-2019 winner of Montclair State University’s New Works Initiative. It will be produced at Montclair in the Spring of 2019 under the new title Daughters of the Rebellion. Her play A Shero’s Journey or What Anacaona and Yemayá Taught Me was selected to be part of The Parsnip Ship’s 4th Season of podcast plays, and will published by Yale Magazine in late winter 2019. Created through The Brooklyn Generator’s fifth season, A Shero’s Journey… was a semi-finalist in The Playwrights Realm’s 2017-2018 Writing Fellowship. The world premiere of Guadalís’s first commissioned play, Not For Sale, was produced by UrbanTheater Company Chicago in conjunction with CLATA’s (Chicago Latino Theater Alliance) Destinos Festival 2018 and was Jeff Recommended by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. Guadalís has been part of the One Minute Play Festival in Chicago and multiple times in NYC, and is a Seattle Public Theatre’s 2017 Emerald Prize nominee. She’s an artistic associate of Black Lives Black Words and is a Co-Creator of the NYC Latinx Playwright Circle.
Guadalís Del Carmen
ERIKA DICKERSON-DESPENZA is a Blk feminist poet-turned-playwright, educator and grassroots organizer from Chicago, Illinois. She’s a 2018-2019 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow and The Lark’s 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellow. Erika is a member of Ars Nova’s Play Group and Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Obie-winning Youngblood collective. She is also a New Georges affiliated artist. Her work has been developed at The Lark and Jackalope Theatre and is currently being developed at The Public Theater. Select stage plays include: a water tetralogy examining water as a reflection of Blk women’s bodies as sites of consciousness development and exile during key events in Black History: ocean’s lip/ heaven’s shore (the Middle Passage), took/tied hung/split (Jim Crow), shadow/land (Hurricane Katrina) and cullud wattah (Flint Water Crisis). In addition to this fourfold work, she is currently developing a 10-play Katrina Cycle, focused on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its state-sanctioned man-made disaster. shadow/land and [hieroglyph] are the first completed works of this Cycle.
JESSICA HUANG is a playwright and producer from Minneapolis, who lives in New York. Her work includes The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin (History Theatre commission/premiere, 2017 Kilroys’ List, 2018 Barry and Bernice Stavis Award), Zero-Infinity Flight Path, Purple Cloud (Mu Performing Arts premiere) and Transmissions in Advance of the Second Great Dying (Mixed Blood Theatre commission). Her plays have been commissioned, developed and/or produced by New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, The New Group, Atlantic Theater Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, TimeLine Theatre Company, History Theatre, Theater Mu, Pillsbury House Theatre, The Minnesota Museum of American Art, Yellow Earth Theatre and many more. She is a MacDowell Fellow, two-time Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellow, Playwrights’ Center Many Voices Fellow and has received awards from the Sloan Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, MRAC/McKnight, the NEA and the Hemera Foundation. Jessica cofounded and codirects Other Tiger Productions, which has a mission to pursue multidisciplinary collaborations, intentional inclusivity and re-examination of traditional theater practices. She is a member of the Civilians R&D Group, and attends the Playwrights Program at Juilliard. jessica-huang.com
JULIA MAY JONAS recently developed MICHIGAN MURDERS with Meghan Finn and composer Brian Cavanagh-Strong as part of the New Works Initiative at Montclair State University. Other recent work includes Emily Climbs (Machine Méchant), Raise Your Voice in Medieval Counterpoint, Evelyn, For Artists Only and Your Own Personal Exegesis. Currently in development: All Long True American Stories (a 5-play cycle reimagining contemporary classic American-male-experience plays for other people (mostly women)). Her work has been presented/developed at venues including The Bushwick Starr, Prelude Festival, Incubator Arts Center, The International Revolutions Festival in New Mexico, The Brick, Dixon Place, PS122 (with TerraNova), HERE Arts Center, Chashama and the International Theater Society of Vietnam. Founder and Artistic Director of Nellie Tinder, she has been granted support by The Mental Insight Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation. 2016 Audrey Resident, 2016/17 member of The Jam, New Georges Affiliated Artist. MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University, she teaches playwriting at Skidmore College.
Julia May Jonas
NOAH MEASE is a writer and designer. His plays include Omega Kids (NLTP / Access Theater, directed by Jay Stull) and Republic (JACK, Manbites Dog Theatre, adapted from Plato, conceived & directed by Alec Duffy). He’s developed work with the Fresh Ground Pepper Playground Play Group and BRB Retreat, Loading Dock Theatre, Teatro IATI, Duke University, Dixon Place, The Tugboat Collective and The Brick. He also designs props for new plays — including Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 (Kazino, A.R.T., Broadway; Tony Awards for Best Set & Lighting), Small Mouth Sounds (Ars Nova, Signature Center, National Tour), An Octoroon (Soho Rep., TFANA), After the Blast (LCT3), Streepshow! (The Tank) and multiple projects with The Debate Society, including Jacuzzi (Ars Nova), The Light Years (Playwrights Horizons) and Blood Play (The Bushwick Starr). He received an Obie Award in 2016 for his work on Annie Baker’s John (Signature). Originally from Vermont, Noah now lives in the South Bronx.
PLAY GROUP ALUMNI
Joshua Allen, Sofia Alvarez, Kevin Armento, Kate Attwell, Annie Baker, Mike Batistick, Chad Beckim, Liza Birkenmeier, Rachel Bonds, Bekah Brunstetter, Sarah Burgess, Evan Cabnet, Sam Chanse, Kara Lee Corthron, Milo Cramer, Michael Yates Crowley, Jenny Connell Davis, Dylan Dawson, Sarah Delappe, Kristoffer Diaz, Zayd Dohrn, Sarah Einspanier, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Ron Fitzgerald, Liz Flahive, Sam Forman, Etan Frankel, Sarah Gancher, Nick Gandiello, Emma Goidel, Tasha Gordon-Solmon, Dipika Guha, Mary Elizabeth Hamilton, Trish Harnetiaux, Suzanne Heathcote, Amina Henry, Amy Herzog, Samuel D. Hunter, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kyle Jarrow, Jake Jeppson, Nick Jones, Stephen Karam, Meghan Kennedy, Jon Kern, Anchuli Felicia King, Ryan King, Josh Koenigsberg, Justin Kuritzkes, Steven Levenson, Barry Levey, Matthew Lopez, Tony Meneses, Carly Mensch, Liz Meriwether, Molly Smith Metzler, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael Mitnick, Gregory S. Moss, Janine Nabers, Antoinette Nwandu, Brian Otaño, Jonathan Payne, Daniel Pearle, Jacob Perkins, Max Posner, Kim Rosenstock, Sharyn Rothstein, Erica Saleh, Erika Sheffer, Madhuri Shekar, Rachel Shukert, Mat Smart, Charise Castro Smith, Celine Song, Aurin Squire, Adam Szymkowicz, Kate Tarker, Joe Tracz, Korde Arrington Tuttle, James Anthony Tyler, A. Zell Williams, Samuel Brett Williams, Beau Willimon, Bess Wohl, Ray Yamanouchi